BRING ON THE DODGERS
Cubs survive thriller to eliminate Nationals, advance to NLCS
WASHINGTON — If this is what the rest of October — and maybe even November — has in store for the Cubs, then buckle up for another wild ride.
In an epic, strange, often ugly Game 5 of their National League Division Series on Thursday against the Nationals, the Cubs came from behind to win 9- 8 to clinch a third consecutive trip to the NL Championship Series.
If manager Joe Maddon wanted the Dodgers, as he suggested when asked about them in August, he’s got them. Game 1 is scheduled for Saturday in Los Angeles, with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw staring the Cubs in the face. The Cubs are expected to start Jose Quintana, who came out of the bullpen in the seventh inning for a nail- biter appearance that likely doubled as his between- starts side session.
Game 5 was anything but routine from start to electric finish, with closer Wade Davis striking out Nationals superstar Bryce Harper to close his 2„- inning outing and send the Cubs into another raucous celebration.
The hard- luck Nationals were bounced in the NLDS for the fourth time in the last six seasons.
Who knew Cubs co- owner Todd Ricketts was a baseball savant to rival Casey Stengel and Bob Costas when he joined the team for its trip to Washington in June? The Nationals? ‘‘ We’re going to run into these guys in the playoffs,’’ Ricketts said to President Donald Trump during the Cubs’ second White House visit in barely five months. ‘‘ You’ll see them crumble.’’
Wild pitches, passed balls, fielding errors, poor baserunning, a hit batter and a catcher’s interference call all conspired with the Cubs’ hitting to do in the Nationals.
These Cubs took what Maddon called a different path all season to get here, so why would Game 5 of the NLDS have been any different.
They pulled it off without Anthony Rizzo reaching base, with postseason stud Kyle Hendricks fighting through only four innings, with Daniel Murphy looking like a Cub- killer again and with only Justin Wilson and John Lackey left in their bullpen.
Murphy hit a second- inning home run against Hendricks and a sixth- inning RBI double against Mike Montgomery, and he drew two walks — including one in the eighth against Davis that led to a two- out run that cut the Cubs’ lead to one.
And it took the Cubs’ biggest replay challenge of the season to end that threat and get to the ninth with the lead.
With Michael Taylor on second, Jose Lobaton on first and leadoff man Trea Turner at the plate, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras threw behind Lobaton for the pickoff that looked like anything but — until the replay showed Lobaton’s foot came off the bag on his slide.
Just like that, the inning was over.
Davis got the final seven outs of the game and saved his best for last, retiring the top of the Nationals’ lineup in order in order in the ninth. He struck out Jayson Werth and Harper to end it.
The Cubs have played three winner- take- all Game 5s in their history, all on the road. This was their first since beating the Braves in Atlanta in the 2003 NLDS. They also lost to the Padres in San Diego in the 1984 NLCS.
But it’s hard to imagine anything in their postseason history — from called shots by Babe Ruth to curses by billy goats — ever looked like this one did Thursday.
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Ben Zobrist celebrates while scoring on a two- run double by Addison Russell during the Cubs’ four- run fifth inning Thursday. | AP